Cold Showers Vs Hot Showers: Which One Is Better For You?

For some of us, there's nothing better than turning up the steam in a hot shower. Others find that the jolt of a cold shower is better than tossing back coffee or tea in the morning. (For what it's worth, secret agent James Bond himself liked quick ice-cold showers after long, hot baths, at least in the 1953 novel Casino Royale.)

Neither shower preference is all wet. Each has different health benefits, according to Tara Allen, R.N., a nutrition coach and certified personal trainer, as well as other researchers (via Insider).

A cold shower also takes the edge off inflammation, soreness, and muscle fatigue after a workout (via Frontiers in Physiology), just like athletes use ice baths to speed recovery and reduce pain and inflammation (via Men's Health). One study found that immersing in cold water reduced exercisers' perceptions of fatigue and muscle pain for as long as 96 hours, compared to 72 hours for a massage.

Ending a warm shower with a blast of cold water for 30 to 90 seconds also can boost your immune system by kickstarting a low-level stress response, one study showed. If you're already feeling under the weather, skip the dose of cold water; it won't get you over any bug faster, Allen added.

Choose your benefits to select a warm or cold shower

Taking a cold shower might seem counterintuitive to people whose sensitive skin feels itchy and dry during cold weather. But cold water — in a shower, bath, or ice pack — reduces itching, Carrie Kovarik, M.D., an associate professor of Dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, told Insider. In fact, hot showers can cause drying and itchiness, especially for people with eczema.

Even so, there are times when it's worth turning up the heat. The Lung Health Institute, a regenerative medicine clinic with five locations nationwide, says a hot shower can clear a stuffy nose and loosen excessive phlegm (via the Lung Institute). Be sure to turn on the exhaust fan to help air circulate. Also, check with your doctor about this if you have severe asthma, chronic bronchitis, or cystic fibrosis.

You'll drift off to sleep easier if you take a hot shower or bath (about 104 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit) roughly one to two hours before bedtime, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say (via UT News). The temperature regulates your circadian rhythms, so you fall asleep faster and more soundly, they said. 

Lastly, if it's hot outside, a warm shower (about 91 degrees Fahrenheit) will cool you down, Kovarik told Insider. People tend to want to jump under a cold shower in hot weather, but that doesn't reduce your body's core temperature like a warm shower does.